CHRISTCHURCH – Every month, young Muslim women in Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand, volunteer to prepare a cooked meal to feed the homeless and correct misconceptions about their faith.
“As a group we’ve been demonized, so it’s nice for people to see what we’re actually like and what our faith is actually about, rather than something that a very small minority has picked up on,” Rabia Mofassir, 18-year-old university student, told Stuff.co.nz on Monday, February 8.
Mofassir, Addeana Husaini, 19; and Asayal Almutairi, 17; a member of Nisa, a Muslim group focused on women helping and empowering other women.
The group members volunteer their time to Christchurch charity Help for the Homeless once a month.
In Latimer Square, they were made to “feel really welcome”.
“Now we come, and they don’t see us as a chick in a scarf, but as people and almost friends, but there is no active converting people,” said Denise Jaeger, who helped co-ordinate the younger women.
“We want to show we value them as human beings and I think a lot of people don’t see the homeless as human beings. We want to say ‘it could be us so easily’.”
During the day, young mother and teens gather to feed the homeless and share stories and knowledge.
“Driving home, you wonder what they are going to do now . . . or you watch them go sit on a bench and it can be really hard,” Almutairi said.
Cooking and delivering packed food for the homeless was a changing experience for attendants, either Muslims or non-Muslims.
“They’ve really warmed up and come a long way,” Help for the Homeless founder Amy Burke said, praising the group’s fried chicken which was voted to be better than KFC.
Najah Mohammed, 24, helped rally the Muslim community to get involved.
“It’s made me more grateful for the basic things,” she said.
For the volunteers, the monthly dinner has become very much a part of the young women’s life.
“It’s our duty. It feels wrong if we don’t do it,” Mohammed said.
Henare ‘Uncle’ Mclean said the group’s involvement made “everybody happy”.
“They’re amazing. They’re taking time out of their day to feed us lot.”
Muslims make about 1.1% of New Zealand’s 4.5 million population, while Christians represent 44%, according to CIA Factbook.